Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Capturing grief

I wanted to take out my phone ... to take a picture ... but I couldn't do it. I couldn't or I didn't want to capture the tattered pieces of a the UN flag that was blown away by the terrorist attack at the Algiers office because I thought it irreverent to do so. I tried but shame got the best of me.

Amidst the wailing of one of the relatives, the official eulogy by the Secretary-General, the somber atmosphere of the black-clad audience, it was too forward to take a picture to take a souvenir for myself. It would be selfish.

The pictures of the victims were put in frames that were spread across the General Assembly hall. Eighteen of them died in the tragic event. Most of them were Algerian but there were international staff too.

They are:

Mustapha Benbara
Karim Bentebal
Saadia-Lamia Boucelham
Hind Boukhroufa
Mouloud Bouldrouah
Samia Hammoutene
Chadi Hamza
Abderrahim Hanniche
Mohamed Khelladi
Mohamed Lasli
Ma Gene Luna - Filipino
Babacar Ndiaye
Steven Robin Olejas - Danish
Djamel Rezzoug
Kamel Sait
Hakim Si Larbi
Nabil Slimani
Adnane Souilah

Each family representative lit a candle in front of the pictures and one could hear the sorrow in each sob. Beside me were UN colleagues that shared the families' bereavement, wiping away teardrops and silently weeping.

No one clapped at any speech including that of Ban Ki-Moon. It was too solemn. He respectfully bowed after his speech. Bowing in front of their pictures. When he unveiled the tattered flag, my heart wrenched in its place. What I felt was nothing compared to the loss of those families. The flag had only three remaining pieces. The logo of olive leaves barely noticeable as only the leftmost part, the central lower part and the slightest sliver of the olive branch at upper right in the second quadrant of the flag was superimposed on a separate cloth outlining how the flag should look. He then bowed in front of the flag.

Death comes like a thief in the night ... it's a saying that is often true. Gene had just transferred only a week before from her mission from Afghanistan then to Algeria when the attack happened. Nobody can really be sure when they will die. And even in the most secure places, death comes like a blanket snuffing out the living.

What I feel is nothing compared to the family. I share in their grief and hope that their loved ones who died in the service of the UN will see the peace that they all worked so hard for.

1 comment:

Rachel said...

Death is definitely so sudden. My heart reaches out to those who are experiencing this loss. I can't even imagine...